As President Obama delivers the State of the Union address he will need to build bipartisan support for ending the great threat to peace and economic stability: hunger.
Whether in the U.S. or far away in South Sudan or Syria, hunger cannot be ignored, or placed on the back burner as an issue for others to deal with. The President needs to show powerful leadership and the State of the Union offers this opportunity.
Hunger is striking over 50 million people within the United States alone, of whom about 17 million are children. Supporting America's system of food banks is crucial to keeping a safety net for those struggling. The food banks can then help individuals stay afloat and escape poverty through the local solutions they utilize.
Bob Aiken, president of Feeding America says, "While we understand the challenges facing President Obama and Congress as they work to address the deficit, and make decisions on spending priorities, we urge them to protect programs that help our most vulnerable citizens and neighbors put food on the table."
Feeding America says, "With historically high unemployment and many families scraping by on reduced wages, or part-time hours, the need for food assistance in our country has never been greater."
"We hear heartbreaking stories every day from people who come to the food pantries and soup kitchens served by the Feeding America network. Our food bank in Orlando recently told us a story about an elderly woman who walked nearly a mile to take a public bus to a food pantry and fainted while standing in line; a pantry volunteer gave the woman a ride to her home, which had little furniture and empty cupboards. It's one of many stories our food banks hear on a daily basis," says Aiken.
Worldwide, hunger is afflicting over 870 million people. The crisis in Syria has rapidly increased the ranks of the hungry in the Middle East. The UN World Food Programme is feeding about 2.5 million people inside Syria and is expecting to feed another 750,000 who have fled to neighboring countries.
The WFP's biggest supporter is the U.S. Food for Peace program. Congress is not putting much support toward this initiative, though, and in fact there are some plans to reduce the funding. This would have a huge impact on the ability to respond to humanitarian emergencies such as Syria. If hunger thrives in the Middle East we can hardly expect peace and stability to emerge in that region.